(Thanks to Robert Beecham)…
In traditional translations of the scriptures we read wonderful things about “eternal” or “everlasting life,” an “everlasting gospel” and “eternal glory.” We also read of terrible things such as “eternal destruction,” “eternal punishment” and torment that continues “forever and ever.” Elsewhere in the Bible we read that everything in heaven and earth will eventually be reconciled to God. How can eternal punishment or eternal destruction possibly be reconciled with the reconciliation of all things?
I’m not going to get into an in-depth word-study here, but I will say that the rendering of the Hebrew word olam as “eternal” and the Greek word aion (and its adjective form aionios) as “eternal” is not accurate. The teaching that “to the aions” (εις αιονας) always means “forever” and that aionios (αιωνιος) always means “everlasting” is wrong because it is inconsistent with many passages of scripture where these words are used. Equally, the teaching that aion always means “age” and that aionios always means “age-lasting,” is also wrong, because this teaching is also inconsistent with many passages of scripture where these words are used. It is certainly true that in some contexts in the New Testament aion means “age,” this having to do with a period of time that has a distinct beginning and an end. Divine correction and punishment are “aionion” and not “everlasting” in that they are allowed for a set time and duration and are for a wise and lovingly prescribed purpose. When “forever” and “forever and ever” appear in our English Bibles though, the literal Greek for this is “to the aions” and “to the aions of the aions,” and to say “to the age” and “to the ages of the ages” makes no sense. I believe that the key to getting a clear understanding of these things in context is found in aion’s relationship to the Hebrew word olam.
Olam does not mean “an age” but rather it mostly refers to something “hidden or unseen.” The Hebrew word olam when it is used in relation to time then implies “hidden time.” For instance, the Hebrew phrase “to olam” looks FORWARD as far as we can SEE into the future, beyond which everything is hidden. The phrase “from olam” looks BACKWARD as far as we can SEE to the past time horizon, beyond which everything is also hidden. When we turn to the New Testament we find that the noun aion and the adjective aionios can be used in a very similar way. These words can be used to look backwards or forwards to the horizon beyond which we cannot see any further. In other words, these words in many places refer to the things of God which are HIDDEN and which are even OUTSIDE OF TIME. For instance, “eternal life” is better stated, “aionian life,” and it does not simply mean life that goes on “forever and ever” but rather it is referring to a SPIRITUAL LIFE that we can experience HERE AND NOW and which belongs to a realm that is ABOVE AND OUTSIDE of time and space. Jesus said: “This is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17: 3). Similarly, beloved, aionian judgment or punishment is not judgment or punishment that goes on “forever and ever,” but is age-enduring or age-lasting, and it is something that takes place in THE HIDDEN AND HIGH REALM OF SPIRIT.
There is much for me to say on this subject, but I really just want to stir you all to seek the Father yourself for more about this. With regard to me being accused lately of preaching “another gospel,” I definitely no longer subscribe to the LIES that God is going to torture people forever and ever in some huge pit of fire. Instead I preach “The Everlasting (Aionian) Gospel” which focusses on Christ’s love for all men and which leads people to repentance, not by fear, but by them coming to know the Father’s heart. All of Christendom will get this message eventually, when the people come out from the darkness of their erroneous traditions and ways and get an ear to hear what the Spirit actually has to say to them.
Beloved, I’ll end this here by saying that everything described by the word aionios or aionian is rooted in the timeless nature of God. Everything aionian relates to Him – aonian life, aionian fire, aionian judgment or correction, etc. These things are not “everlasting” in that they go on “forever and ever” but are HOLY and are TIMELESS because they are part of the very nature of God who is from everlasting to everlasting, from olam to olam. These things exist for our benefit and for the whole of human time, and they go beyond that into the timeless and invisible realm of the spirit. These things go way beyond our natural comprehension of the scriptures as well, herein being A HUGE PROBLEM for many Christians today, and the reason why we must BE LED and BE TAUGHT by the Spirit and not by our carnal, natural, reasoning minds.